Sunday, 29 November 2009
07:19:28 AM (GMT)
*AN: i wrote this a while ago..so yeah tell me what you think, i might make a
I could feel my heart thumping in my chest as I ran. My breath came in short pained
gasps, as stitch in my left side burned. I jumped a narrow creek polluted with oil
and debris, mirrored on its murky surface I could see the glow from the roaring
inferno that was my village behind me. Everything had been engulfed in flame and
thick black smoke. In front of me was seemingly endless darkness filled with unseen
rocks and tree roots that threatened to trip me. On the air was the stench of burning
flesh and timber.
On I ran, not stopping for anything. Panic and fear drove me onward. If I stopped I
would die, melted by the white hot blaze with the heat of a thousand furnaces, as the
fire spread throughout the wood. Fear for my mother and little sister coursed through
my body like poison, making every stride I took feel like I was walking on a bed of
knives. I had no idea whether or not they made it out OK. I had been herding the
cattle into the lower pasture at the time the soldiers had started raiding my
I had no idea where I was. Everything looked different in the dark. The fire cast
shadows, distorting my vision. Ahead I thought I saw something like a clearing. My
heart ached and my legs could barely keep me going in a straight line. I had to slow
down. Focusing on not passing out I suddenly felt a searing pain on my back as a
tongue of flame licked up my spine. Screaming I tried to speed up, heading for the
clearing. The fire was now in line with me. It was over. I was doomed. I was racing
through the clearing, thinking of how I had never said goodbye to all my friends and
family when suddenly the ground beneath me disappeared. Down and down I felt myself
falling; I don’t remember hitting the ground. There was no impact, no pain, only
the rush of air around my falling form and a sudden darkness.
** ** **
I knew I was alive. I knew it before I opened my eyes. Bird calls and rustling leaves
could be heard and morning sunlight warmed my cold, sore body. Blinking and confused
I managed to sit up. My eyes traversed over the spot where I lay. Around me was lush
green foliage and a broad stream. I could just make out the glimmers of fish swimming
in its depths. I’d landed on a pile of leaves and moss, which luckily had softened
my fall. Craning my neck upward and shielding my eyes against the glare, I could see
the lip of the cliff of which I had fallen off last night. Last night seemed years
ago and looking at the peaceful scene before me, I could easily fool myself that
nothing had ever gone wrong. But it had. Everything had turned bad
Since the soldiers from the southern kingdoms entered the valley. That had happened
two months ago. So many things have happened in my life since then.
After bathing in the river and letting the cool water soothe my aching body and
blistered and burned back, I set out again. While I tried to find a way up the cliff
I began to go over the events that had happened to me over the past 8 weeks.
It had all started when I was outside, enjoying the hot January sun one afternoon. I
was sitting on my favourite tree branch eating birthday cake left over from my 15th
Swinging to and fro upside down from a branch was Mike, my best friend. He grinned
cheekily at me from his upside down perch. ‘You gonna share that cake Marlo?’
‘Hmmmmm... ’ I replied, as I pretended to think. Seeing me stall he quickly swung
himself down onto my branch and looked at me with a sad, pleading expression and
pretended to beg. I laughed and gave in, handing half of my slice we sat together
staring out over the valley.
As we sat on that branch, oblivious of the soldiers preparing to take down the
country, we chatted about stuff. I couldn’t remember exactly what we had talked
about. My old life seemed so far away, almost like a dream. It was Mike who noticed
the smoke first, a far off black smear on the horizon. At the time we had thought
nothing of it.
My life continued normally for a while, but there were rumours of soldiers in the
valley. I did not pay attention to my mother’s warnings. How I wish I had listened
to my father as he told me to be careful. How I longed to hear my father’s voice as
he whispered his last words of love and goodbye to me in my ear as he went to war in
the North. The sudden yearning for my family pulled me out of my reverie as I choked
back a sob.
My father had been asked to fight with the other village men to help the neighbouring
kingdoms. I was still in denial at the time. I refused to believe he was gone, even
after he had died I still sat by my window each night waiting for him to come home.
Tears were streaming down my face as I relived this memory. Even now as I walked down
the track that would take me home (if there was still a house standing) I still
couldn’t believe he was gone. He had died a hero, defending the good kingdoms of
the North. But as they perished, so did we. The soldiers seized the chance to attack
our defenceless village only mere days after their victory in the Northern kingdoms.
‘Marlo!’ the shout broke through my subconscious thoughts. Looking up, I saw that
the voice was coming from just behind a clump of shrubs. Cautiously I walked over.
‘Who’s there?’ I whispered. My heart was beating like a hammer on an anvil.
Peering behind a shrub I felt my heart stop completely as I saw who lay behind the
bush on the blackened earth. ‘MIKE!!’ I screamed. I lunged forward and hugged him
tight. When I let go I saw that he was wincing. ‘Marlo,’ he whispered.
‘You’re hurt,’ he said as he grasped my wrist gently and gazed at the burns
running up the back of my arms and legs. I shook my head and sat down. Mike was
covered in bruises and cuts, a four inch gash ran down his right cheek stopping under
his chin. ‘I was luckier than you,’ I murmured. The gash was long, but not too
At my estimate we were probably a good couple miles out from where our village is.
This surprised me as when I had started running from the soldiers as they crossed the
field I had only been about half a mile away from my house.
Together Mike and I sat under the shade of the shrubs as we swapped stories of our
thrilling escapes. After I had finished Mike began his tale. He had been down at the
butchers when the enemy began their invasion. The village had been totally
unprepared, there were no fighters present as they were all slain in the battle in
the north. ‘They attacked from all sides,’ he recounted. ‘The warning bell
hadn’t even finished its fifth toll before half the town was already in flames!’
‘And then what?’ I asked eagerly.
‘Well if you let me finish you will find out.’ He grinned cheekily. Nodding in
agreement, I let him continue. Picking up from where he left off I was bursting to
ask whether or not he knew if my mother and sister were OK, but I managed to hold my
tongue until he was finished.
‘You are so brave.’ I whispered in awe as he wound up the end of his tale.
‘Actually you could probably just call it sheer luck!’ Mike laughed.
Breathing in deep I sucked up all the courage I had to ask my question. A passing
thought crossed my mind; perhaps it was better to not know the answer. Gritting my
teeth I looked at Mike. ‘Listen, Mike do you know whether or not my family made it
out?’ I managed to blurt. Deep down I knew what the answer would be, but I had to
Gently Mike took my hand and squeezed it. His voice shook slightly as he started to
speak again. ‘Marlo, I honestly don’t think either of them had a chance, it all
happened so suddenly.’
‘No, they can’t be dead they can’t be!’ I screamed. ‘It’s not true,
you’re lying, you didn’t see them. You don’t know for sure...’ I continued to
shriek. Mike just gazed at me with a hopeless expression as he listened to my insane
accusations. Giving up I threw myself face down on to the black earth and began to
Clearly I was in no fit state to travel, and it was dusk, so Mike made up a kind of
camp with whatever materials he could find. I was still crying too hard to even
really notice much. There would still be soldiers in the area so we couldn’t light
a fire. It was just before I cried myself to sleep that I heard Mike speak to me.
‘I know how you feel Marlo, my parents didn’t make it either, but we have to keep
going forward and accept what has happened. I know it’s not fair but we can pull
through this.’ Glancing up I saw his back to me and a sliver of his face in the
moonlight, a single tear rolled over his high cheek bones. As the tear fell to the
ground I fell asleep.
We were up by dawn. Together we walked some ways west and found a little stream that
we knew. I went to wash while he found some berries and roots to eat. Neither of us
was going to speak about last night, not yet.
Memories of last night were still painfully fresh in my mind. How could I have been
so insensitive? I didn’t even think, not once to ask about his parents. Shame and
guilt now swirled with the sadness and pain in my head. His parents are gone to. At
least we can be alone together.
It took us about an hour to make it back to the outskirts of the village. All that
was left were a few crumbling foundations and scattered debris. As we walked further
the destruction got worse. Why had we come back? Tears were flowing down both of our
faces and I had never felt so utterly and completely alone. It was eerie and silent.
I grasped Mike’s hand as we turned down our street. Not even checking the way was
clear I ran towards the pile of burnt rubble that was my house.
Next door was Mike’s house; the evidence of a fight was plain by the spatters of
dried blood that smeared the stone pathway. Everything was destroyed, not a single
thing left to cherish, no mother to wipe my tears, no father to tell me he loves me
and no little sister to clutch at my skirt folds and beg me to tell her a story.
‘Is anyone left? Can anyone hear me? Somebody please!’ I hollered down the empty
streets. I began to run, as fast as I could go. Not caring where I went, somebody had
to be alive, anyone. Collapsing into a pile of ash on the blood streaked stone I
realized. There was no one.
‘It’s going to be alright Marlo, you’ll see,’ Mike hushed as he placed a
comforting hand on my shoulder. Staggering to my feet I looked at him.
‘How can you say that? Nothings OK! Nothing will ever be OK again. I have
‘Things will get better. We’ll salvage what we can and find our way to another
village.’ His eyes held my gaze as he spoke. ‘And besides, you’re not alone.
You have me and I won’t leave you. My mind whirled at what he had just said, I
wasn’t alone and I never was. Mike had been there for me and always will be.
‘You promise?’ I choked.
‘I Mike Nightly, promise to stay with and protect you, Marlo Sunstar. Should you
accept you shall have to put up with all my rude jokes and complaints forever
more,’ He laughed
‘That is good enough for me,’ I murmured.
Together we walked away from the remains of the village and with it the tattered
remains of my new life. There was nothing left for me there, but the future looked
like it would get better. And besides the ones you truly love never leave you,
they’re always in my memories and in my heart.
By Courtney De’Cent